Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Marcello Piccinini
The farmers market in Charleston is a good place for friendly conversation among consumers and storeowners alike, as well as observing some of the wares that the town has to offer.
The consumers at any market are the reason the stands operate. Luckily, these consumers greet people with a friendly face, such as Brenda Duzan, a grandmother who visits the market at least once every week. She comes to buy the fresh items that the market has to offer like the corn that her grandkids bring over. Duzan believes that the market benefits the community and creates memories as three generations of Duzans have grown up with it around.
Many small businesses take part in the market, such as Eddie Beck Farms, which is owned and operated by Mike Beck and his wife and is in its ninth year of business. They sell items such as flowers, herbs, and vegetable plants and bring in a decent amount of consumers. The only main problem they encounter is the weather because all of the wares are grown outside, but Beck said he’s confident that he can compete with bigger businesses because he offers a face that the community can trust.
Not all stores at the market have been operating for multiple years, such as a stand that just started up and is run by Mariga Gerhargt. Living in the Ukraine for most of her life, Gerhargt only moved to the U.S. five years ago. Not only that, but she also started her pastime of selling plants and crafts recently.
Gerhargt loves growing plants and crafting knitted wares in her free time. She started selling as a hobby; however, when first moving to this country, she found it hard to communicate as she didn’t know the language well, but after attending college, Gerhargt was able to pick up on the language and speak general English.
While walking around the farmers market, visitors may hear the tune of a guitar playing with a violin. That is probably Wendy Meyer, owner of the Lincoln Book Shop. In 1962, the late Tanya and Leonard Woods opened the store. According to Meyer, “It’s just always been part of our community.”
After the Woodses died in a fatal car accident, the store entered a brief decline. After multiple attempts at new ownership, the store came under the management of the retired Meyer.
“I never planned on being a bookshop owner,” said Meyer. The shop also sells dolls, antiques and dishes. The effects of the store on the community can be described as, “no negative, all positive,” according to Meyer.
Whether you’re in town to either buy something or look at the sights of Charleston, stopping at the weekly farmers market is a way to meet people either by talking or playing music with them.